CATCH IT: BEDFORD

I remember my first New York City Marathon in 1996.  I was coming into Williamsburg, clutching my palms, my eyes glaring, daring the chilled air to slow me down.  Thinking, “Thank God—soon Manhattan, it will be over.”  I just wanted to be home.  I kept pondering, “Why—why did I do this?”  I asked the same question after three subsequent marathons, but that’s another story.

Today, it is a sunny Saturday, February 26, 2011.  I am in Bedford, Brooklyn.  This time, I am strolling my merry way on an adventure, I say.

Now, when one hears the name Bedford, it could be: John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, Bedford in the Bronx,  or Bedford Heights in North Ohio.  But in this case, it’s in Brooklyn, after taking the L-train from Manhattan at 14th Street and Union Square.  In less than ten minutes, I’m in Bedford.

On a gorgeous golden day, people were walking along the streets.  I instantly observed a vintage store named JUNK.  Clothes and furniture were outside, inside were larger pieces, houseware items, boxes of photographs, buttons for .25 cents, and chairs for $10.00.  It was an excellent discovery where one could spend hours browsing without going any place else.

As I traveled along Bedford Avenue, still thinking vintage, I saw Amarcord.  I stepped inside and glanced at one of their postcards: “Fashionable European Vintage Clothing, Couture and Accessories for Men and Women.”  Behind the counter were two sales associates.

I said, “Hello—what an adorable community.”

Both smiled, and a tall brunette, with the likeness of a fashion model, asked, “Your first time in Bedford?”

“Not exactly,” I said, “if you count passing by while running in the New York Marathon.”

“We never go into the city,” she said, “because we don’t have to.”

“I agree,” said the other associate, whose illuminated eyes characterized the abode of Bedford.

“I don’t have to leave Brooklyn; it’s almost like a different city here.”

A lady peering through dresses joined in, “Bedford has become trendy; it’s an old world feeling, a do-it-yourself culture, an artsy crowd.  There’s still a lot of the old mixture: Polish community, plus newcomers from around the world.”

“It’s definitely worth the trip,” I said.  “Several stops later on the L-train and you’re here.”

“It’s a shorter walk from the G-train,” she said.

As more customers entered Amarcord, I said good-bye to Lauren, Jessie, and Nicole.

In the warm sunlight, I walked north on Bedford and found the Bedford Cheese Shop.  Two young men were standing outside the door eating a sandwich.

“That looks appetizing,” I said.

They laughed, and said in unison, “We got it here at the Cheese Shop.”

“It’s really good,” said the one wearing a black wool coat and cap.  “Sorry though, it was the last sandwich left.”

“A lot of people are going in; it seems very popular,” I said.  “Do you know of another place to eat in Bedford?”

“We don’t live here—we’re from Canada.”

“And you came to Bedford,” I asked.

“Why not,” he replied.  “It’s Brooklyn—it’s fun, and relaxing.”

“That’s great,” I said. “I’m visiting too, and I think I’ll try to get into the Cheese Shop.”

“Hey,” he said.  “I would recommend the Blue Bottle Coffee Shop.  It’s pretty good.”

I took their advice, and decided to find Blue Bottle Coffee.  Along the way, I popped into Spoonbill & Sugartown, Booksellers.  They specialize in architecture, design, photography, and philosophy books.  I also stopped in the Ugly Luggage shop, which sells vintage luggage and accessory items.

Again, I set off searching for Blue Bottle Coffee.  I thought, “I must be getting closer, because I see many passersby holding the same coffee cup.”  A few minutes later, I was in a large loft space.  Inside were two long lines: one to place an order, the other waiting to pick theirs up.  I had seen a grand communal table with chairs, a slender table at the window, and a separate space in the rear where a man roasted and bagged the beans.  I overheard a woman say, “This is exciting, I always wanted to come here.”

And so, I was witnessing a Broadway performance in Bedford–the anticipating, the patience for something special–and after I placed my order (coffee and shortbread cookie), I returned to the pick-up line.  In front of me were a couple of guys—athletic built, Abercrombie & Fitch style who seemed at ease with the scene.

I asked, “Is Blue Bottle Coffee always this busy?”

“Pretty much,” one said.  “It’s one of the best coffee places in New York.”

“Exactly,” his friend said.  “It’s great, part of the experience, part of living in Bedford.”

I enjoyed listening to them speak about Bedford, their quiet community, and why they loved living in Brooklyn.  Soon, their order was ready.  I said good-bye to Phil and Elliot.  By that time, my order was ready as well.  One minute later, I a saw chair and grabbed it fast.  The coffee was splendid.  I was amused at the creative way of putting the cookie in a paper filter cup.  I glanced at the door.  People pranced in, and since it was getting dark, I decided to leave with my coffee in hand.

Walking back towards the L-train, I scurried into some other places, such as: El Almacen, Wild Ginger, Fornino, and Chai.  Of course, an adventure can be on your own street, in your neighborhood, in the tranquility of your own home.

William Shakespeare said, “In things of great receipt with ease we prove.”

Indeed.

Catch Bedford if you can at:

www.motherofjunk2.blogspot.com, www.amarcordvintagefashion.com, www.bedfordcheeseshop.com, www.bluebottlecoffee.net, www.spoonbillbooks.com, www.uglyluggage@gmail.com, www.elalmacennyc.com, www.wildgingerny.com, www.chai-restaurant.com.

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